It can be frustrating to witness pretty people having it better just because they’re pretty. It’s the guy in your class that might seem inexplicably charming even though he’s actually a rotten person and it’s the girl who gets whatever she wants even though she’s impossibly fake. These people are sometimes terrible but it seems that they breeze through life with few worries. If we’re being honest with one another, and for that matter, ourselves, we can all recognize at least a few people in our lives who manage to get what they want with less effort than their colleagues and friends. What’s the secret?
Science has the answer. According to many researchers, it could be because they’re better looking than everybody else. You might call them beautiful, pretty, or sexy, but one way or another nobody would describe these people as ugly. When someone is exceptionally good-looking, it’s not hard to spot. You can do it in a classroom, at the gym, or maybe in the grocery store, but it’s evident that they simply please the eye. Whether you’re in business, politics, film, or are just a regular person, if you’re good looking it presents you with an insane, and very measurable, advantage. The actual numbers behind being attractive and the advantage that grants you in life are mind blowing, but I’ll save that for later. We should begin with what makes a person exceptionally good looking.
It begins with a consideration of facial symmetry. There are a number of studies on facial symmetry that are very meaningful but what is significant isn’t so much the results as it is the process. Lee Bader of Penn State describes the process: “Typically, this is measured by manipulating an original photo of a person… into a perfectly symmetric version of their face. This manipulated, symmetric image is then presented to test subject along with the original photo. Subjects are then asked to indicate which face is more attractive, usually indicating the symmetrical version”. What does this mean? Well, if you think of all the features that people don’t find attractive, acne, crooked teeth, scarring from injuries or perhaps a broken nose that didn’t heal correctly, all these things adversely affect facial symmetry. Thus, they affect our perception of whether or not that person is attractive. The other things we consider to be attractive features can vary from person to person but generally, there are a number of things people find universally attractive. These things include: facial symmetry, a good smile, high cheekbones, and muscular build. These are the things that can make someone seem more attractive but what kind of advantage does this really grant them in real life?
A massive advantage. The most striking study that I uncovered while writing this article came out of a Finnish study on politicians that said this “We show that in municipal elections, a beauty increase of one standard deviation attracts about 20% more votes for the average non-incumbent candidate on the right and about 8% more votes for the average non-incumbent candidate on the left” This means that not only do attractive people do better in politics but people are actually voting for political candidates based on how they look. What could be scarier than knowing pretty people automatically do better in elections? Well, the study in question also controlled for education, occupation and “several other robustness checks”. This means that there is an identifiable advantage to being attractive, or at least “attractive” as the study measured it. There are also a number of other studies that account for things like height and cleft chins. All features that apparently make you more likely to hold higher offices and just generally be more successful.
So that person in your class that seems to get by “just because” isn’t actually getting by on anything other than looks. Perhaps someone should look into the GPA of conventionally “attractive” students versus that of those we can call… less fortunate? So what is my take-home message? Pretty people have it better.
Disagree with me?
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